BELOIT—Jeramie Mielke said it is imperative for citizens throughout Rock County to learn about the warning signs of human trafficking in the area, because awareness can help save lives.

“Not everyone knows what the signs of human trafficking are. You don’t see it, but once you get educated and see what the signs are you start to see it a lot more,” Mielke said. “Once you identify that, it really pulls you back.”

Mielke, a deputy fire chief in the Town Beloit, collaborated with fellow Leadership Development Academy members Brandon Rusch, Lyndsey Stocker, Kevin Saxe and Diamond Gregory to raise more than $3,000 towards producing an educational video.

The group also secured a $4,000 grant donation from the Stateline Community Foundation, to benefit the Rock County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force.

Drywater Productions is creating the short film, which the task force aims to share in local schools, at upcoming events and on social media for a wide public outreach effort.

Carrie Wyatt said she is profoundly grateful for the Leadership Development Academy’s help.

“You just have to be willing to listen and think about things in a different way than perhaps you didn’t think about,” Wyatt said. “We as a community and as a county want to come together and do what we can to keep our kids safe.”

Wyatt is chairwoman of the task force and teaches in the Janesville School District.

A few possible indicators could include malnutrition, habitual tardiness to school, sexually transmitted infections and trauma, Wyatt said, adding that Rock County has seen particularly high levels of trauma among its youth.

Often times, Wyatt said, child sex predators are known to the family or are a relative.

By raising awareness of the issue of forced labor and child sex trafficking, Wyatt said the goal is for more community members to understand possible indicators and alert the proper authorities.

“Our youth are the ones who are on the front lines. If we can teach them what to look out for, they can keep themselves safe and keep their friends safe,” Wyatt said.